January 31, 2009

I had a humiliating experience a few weeks ago and I figured I'd share. Actually, I have a humiliating experience every week. The reason I'm sharing is that this one relates to gaming.

The story goes something like this. Shortly after the CGS went the way of Mike Tyson's sanity I reacquainted myself with Source's ugly, older brother: 1.6. It's hard to remember the last time I played 1.6, but I'm pretty sure John Kerry was running for President. Either that or he was trying to win an award for being the most boring person in the world, though I suppose the two aren't mutually exclusive.

Anyway. Safe to say it's been a while, and the conditions were less than optimal. How much less? To be honest, I thought it was a small miracle that the game even ran. I was afraid that CS would interface with my laptop as well as my grandmother, considering they're about the same age. I've upgraded my computer twice since the last time I played, so my old .cfg was long gone. Not that it would have helped much, anyway, considering I've changed my binds and controls to be Source-friendly, which is not the same as being 1.6-friendly.

I'm not saying he's boring, but instead of using melatonin or listening to the ocean, some people play John Kerry speeches to help them fall asleep.

But by far the worst part was the company I was keeping. Don't get me wrong, they were all perfectly nice. The problem was that they were out of my league, and would have been so even if I was in peak condition. I was playing with an interesting mix of Source pros, 1.6 pros, and the people a level just below that -- think CAL-Invite or low-tier CEVO-P, at least.

I thought about begging for mercy. I thought about telling them to play with the opposite hand they normally would, while hoping my Jedi powers would finally manifest.

In the end, I took my beating like a man. My pride was taken to the hospital for an emergency hubris transfusion. I think NightFall was the original donor, because I had an inexplicable desire to flex in front of a camera for a few weeks after that. But I got through it all and I've emerged on the other side. Now that I'm safe and sound, I wanted to share my thoughts for anybody finding themselves in a similar situation. So here are some warnings, things you need to remember, and general thoughts if you're moving back to 1.6 from Source.

Playing at a high resolution is suicide.

I can't stress how important this is. I have a widescreen LCD. The last time I played 1.6, I had one of those CRT monitors that looks like it belongs in some kind of monitor hospital. It was huge, bulky, retained water, and was decidedly yellow. If my skin was that shade of yellow I'd probably end up on an episode of House due to liver and/or kidney failure.

Not thinking about the resolution, and already in pain from the graphical wonders of a game made almost a decade ago, I decided to run the game at my monitor's native resolution, 1680x1050. It wasn't until later, when I felt like I was playing the world's hardest game of pin the bullet on the donkey, that I remembered I was an oddball in 1.6 for playing at 1024x768. I mean, there's an option for playing 1.6 at 640x480! At that setting I believe a truly dedicated person could actually count exactly how many pixels make up every player model.

I love it when my games look pretty, but if you're moving back to 1.6, you're gonna have to bit the ugly bullet.

Playing with a high ping is suicide.

This one isn't in your control like resolution, but I forgot how much of a difference ping makes in 1.6. It makes a difference in Source, too, but I can play on UK servers from Los Angeles and still enjoy the experience.

By contrast, every time you get hit with a bullet in 1.6 and your ping is in the 70-80 range, it feels like your model starts having a seizure. You jerk back and forth, your recoil feels like you just unloaded a whole clip from a semi-automatic bazooka, and you wonder if you're ever actually going to make it behind the cover you're trying to get to (hint: you're not, and it's not much cover anyway – it's probably a box you'll just get spammed through).

After going through that, I vaguely remember feeling that back in the day a 100 ping was unplayable. Anything in the 80-100 range was horrible, and after thinking about it for a bit, the ping imbalance rule for online leagues looked a lot more useful than it has in years.

I'm sure some of this experience was me not being used to 1.6, but man … I sure didn't miss some portions of the online 1.6 experience.

Look at those options, baby! Hoooey, dat sure is a lotta pixels!

Mouse Acceleration is not your friend.

This is on me, but after not worrying about it for so long, and 1.6 having a totally alien feel, it took me a while to even recognize that mouse acceleration was turned on. I thought it was just my settings or my Internet connection being a little wonky.

Then I'd get surprised by something, try to snap to whatever made the noise or was shooting me in the back, and I'd spin about 360 degrees so I was pointing the same direction I started with. I toyed with the idea of actually raising the acceleration so I'd do a 540 degree spin and weird people out, but that seemed a little unrealistic.

Consider yourself warned. Check your mouse settings.

Everybody will be better than you at spamming.

If you're just returning after a long hiatus like I was, one of your fond memories of 1.6 is probably the spamming. I missed it dearly.

That being said, allow me to quote Admiral Ackbar when I say "IT'S A TRAP!"

Spamming was so natural in 1.6, and so foreign in Source, that the skill and everything around it slowly atrophied. The concept isn't hard, but executing it in a scrim certainly is. It's all about timing and prediction, and those things only come with a lot of experience playing. Which is not something you'll have if you've been playing Source the last three years.

Just sayin. If you're just comin' back, it's probably better to save your bullets for actual, confirmed people.

I did show those walls a thing or two about who's boss, though. Oh yeah.

Revel in the headshot animations/sounds while you can.

One thing I definitely missed about 1.6: the dinks and splooshes.

The dinks, of course, being headshots when your opponent has a helmet, and the splooshes being headshots sans helmet. I don't know what happened in Source, but they're not nearly as satisfying as they were in 1.6. For my money, one of the best feelings in all of CS is the pistol-round sploosh with a glock. Mmmm ... satisfying.

The silenced USP is more worthless than you remember – which you forgot was possible.

I love the concept of the silenced USP. And it's not so bad on LAN. But for online play you'd be better off with the knife, or even a bb gun. At least you could shoot somebody's eye out.

In the real world, silencers work by capturing the rapidly expanding (noisy) gas that comes out of a gun barrel and giving it a place to dissipate a little less violently. I think that somehow, in coding CS, the programmers did the opposite: they created a silencer that catches the bullet and lets the gas roam free, effectively creating a gun that fires highly compressed air. This explains how you can fire a whole clip into somebody's back only to have him turn around and one-shot you with an unsilenced USP.

Quickscoping should be a part of CS.

I hate the AWP delay in 1.6, but not as much as I hate the lack of a quickscope in Source. I loved quickscoping, and it makes for some incredibly entertaining shots and moments.

That's all there is to say about that.

Anybody that thinks Source players wouldn't be good at 1.6 is absolutely, unequivocally insane.

As I mentioned, some of the guys I played with were top-tier Source players. I don't want to drop any names, but I'll just reiterate the overall point: there is a zero percent chance those guys wouldn't be stars in 1.6.

The idea that Source players were failed 1.6 players or that they wouldn't be able to hang in 1.6 is one of my pet peeves. I just don't understand how people could watch players on the old teams like Pandemic, EFG, and not think those guys would be great at 1.6. To say nothing of the people just below that – guys on teams that were consistently good but perhaps not on Pandemic's level. They've all got the skills that 1.6 players have. I'm not saying they're gonna come over and dominate the competition. But if guys like n0it, juan, moe, clown, devour, and any of the other guys we consider "Source" stars switched to 1.6, they'd hold their own. At the very least.

If you see me playing 1.6, charge!

This is a public service announcement. If you want a good score in 1.6, whether it's a dm or a scrim or whatever, all you have to do is get me in the server and make sure you keep finding me. As long as you don't run in a straight line with your knife out, you should do pretty well.

This offer is good for approximately another month.

1.6, Source